By Natarsha Witherspoon, Staff Writer
Eighteen members of the UNC Student Environmental Action Coalition lobbied on Capitol Hill on Friday against President Bush's energy strategy. Lisa Abbott, co-chairwoman of SEAC, said the National Day of Action involved students from across the country. "I think it was the first time many UNC students lobbied on the Capitol and said what they believed in and were listened to," she said. Ericka Kurz, SEAC's national campaign coordinator, said about 150 students attended the rally, which was part of SEAC's "Energy Independence" campaign.
Part of Bush's National Energy Strategy calls for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and coastal areas of North Carolina for oil drilling. Abbott said the strategy also includes deregulating the nuclear industry, which would take away the power of citizens to prevent the operation of nuclear waste dumps and sites. SEAC members want Congress to make energy conservation and finding renewable energy sources their priority, she said. "The strategy never mentions fuel efficiency," she said. "It is lip service. There is no specific funding for the conservation of energy." Randy Viscio, SEAC's national outreach coordinator, said the group wanted Congress to pass the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency Bill, which would raise the average fuel mileage of new cars from 26 miles per gallon to 40-45 miles per gallon.
Abbott said, "We asked our representatives to co-sponsor a bill in the House and Senate saying our country needs to reduce our dependency on oil. It was exciting to see students from all over the country," she said. A training session gave the students tips on lobbying, she said.
The students from UNC met with environmental aides of Sen. Terry .Sanford, Rep. David Price and Rep. Charlie Rose, all of North Carolina, Abbott said. Other students from UNC-Greensboro spoke with N.C. Sen. Jesse Helms' aides, she said. "The representatives were receptive and knowledgeable about the issues," she said.
"I think the strategy Bush has proposed, the National Energy Strategy, will be passed piece by piece," she said. "If it was to be adopted we could have one of the biggest disasters we could ever imagine in this country. It would destroy our land and leave us more dependent on fossil fuels and nuclear power." Viscio said the lobbying efforts included letters, phone calls and petitions. The rally was really a small part of the campaign, he said. Kurz said SEAC was considering holding a national conference that would concentrate on the energy campaign. "Students at UNC have done a great job locally, writing 30 letters," she said. SEAC has more than 200 chapters at colleges nationwide, with its national office located in Chapel Hill on Franklin Street.